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Johnson fourth, Earnhardt eighth at Pocono

 

LONG POND, Pa. – Jimmie Johnson battled his way up from a 24th-place starting position to cross the finish line fourth in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Pocono Raceway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. followed Johnson by crossing the line in his No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet. This is Earnhardt’s 11th top-10 finish of the season. Earnhardt improved to second in the driver standings. Their Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne were scored 19th and 29th, respectively.

Earnhardt and Kahne opened Sunday’s race in the top 10, and were quickly able to gain positions before the first caution of the event flew on the first lap. Gordon joined his teammates and ran in ninth by Lap 8, while Johnson continued to climb through the field working his way from 24th to 14th by the second caution of the race.

On Lap 33, Earnhardt surged to the lead in his No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet. Gordon in his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet joined Earnhardt as they ran first and second at the Tricky Triangle. Johnson and his No. 48 Lowe’s Kobalt Tools Chevrolet joined the race leaders in the top five, while Kahne followed in 14th.

Soon after, Gordon and Johnson were both hit with pit road speeding penalties that set the drivers back. Gordon restarted in 23rd, maintaining his position on the lead lap. Johnson fell to 27th and one lap down after he was hit with a second penalty on pit road. There were a record 18 speeding penalties during the 160-lap event at Pocono.

Earnhardt regained the lead on Lap 60, while Johnson got the wave around to rejoin the lead lap after the third caution of the race on Lap 66.

Despite the setback earlier in the race, the Hendrick Motorsports teammates were all running in the top 10 with 40 laps to go. Earnhardt led the field, followed by Johnson in sixth, Gordon in seventh and Kahne in eighth.

A late race caution came on Lap 138, when Kahne made contact with the wall while running in fifth. The hit retired the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet for the day. He was ultimately scored 29th.

The final restart of the 400-mile event came with eight laps to go after a caution on Lap 149. Johnson gained positions over the final laps to finish fourth, his seventh top-five finish of the season.

“We had a long day, we had a lot of issues, speeding on pit road,” Johnson said after the race. “We’ll look into it and see what happened. But either way, we still came back. We had a very fast race car, and I had a shot at the win. I got real loose in turn one, and I still rallied back from that to fourth and catch the leaders.”

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